|Quebec Premier Jean Charest. (STEVENS LEBLANC/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - A Quebec corruption inquiry learned this week of 36 different collusion schemes used by bureaucrats, construction firms and engineering companies, and while taxpayers were the big losers, the premier's riding came out a winner.
A report prepared by the now-defunct anti-collusion unit (UAC) noted that the riding of Sherbrooke, Que., in the Eastern Townships, received a disproportionate number of major contracts from 2003 to 2011.
"More major projects in the riding of the PM (premier)," reads one section of the report presented to the Charbonneau commission.
It wasn't a red-letter day for Premier Jean Charest, who was on the defensive about a Liberal supporter who was among 11 people rounded up Thursday in an alleged collusion scam south of Montreal.
A published report said Charest had visited the home of the suspect, Gaetan Paradis, for a private Liberal fundraising event a few months after the premier took power in 2003.
The 10-year-old article in the weekly newspaper Le Canada Francais quoted Paradis as saying it was the second time Charest had visited his home for a fundraiser.
The premier defended his relationship with the alleged fraudster.
"Financing is done according to the rules," he told reporters in Brazil, where he's attending the G20 summit. "If people have donated money and have acted other than in accordance with the laws, they must be accountable."
Charest hasn't said if he regrets calling the inquiry last year following a scathing report by then anti-collusion czar Jacques Duchesneau, the Montreal police chief.
Charest had initially called a limited inquiry with no subpoena powers, leading critics to suggest he was trying to cover up wrongdoing that touched his own party.
The premier called a full inquiry last fall after Duchesneau told the legislature that the Mafia has its hands deep in the construction industry and that a commission was the only way to uncover the rot.
Duchesneau's five days on the stand included allegations that party financing is "a hypocritical system where influence is allocated, where decisions are for sale."
He said the Parti Quebecois and the Liberals have been guilty of flouting election laws "on an unimaginable scale" and that "dirty money can make elections."
The former Montreal police chief said he based his comments on meetings with 13 people who provided information on secret party financing.